im·​pe·​tus | \ ˈim-pə-təs How to pronounce impetus (audio) \

Definition of impetus

1a(1) : a driving force : impulse
b : stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity
2 : the property possessed by a moving body in virtue of its mass and its motion used of bodies moving suddenly or violently to indicate the origin and intensity of the motion

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Impetus Has Latin Roots

You already have plenty of incentive to learn the origin of "impetus," so we won't force the point. "Impetus" comes from Latin, where it means "attack or assault"; the verb "impetere" was formed by combining the prefix in- with petere, meaning "to go to or seek." "Petere" also gives us other words suggesting a forceful urging or momentum, such as "appetite," "perpetual," and "centripetal." "Impetus" describes the kind of force that encourages an action ("the impetus behind the project") or the momentum of an action already begun ("the meetings only gave impetus to the rumors of a merger").

Examples of impetus in a Sentence

In a revealing comment, Mr. Updike says an impetus for Rabbit, Run was the "threatening" success of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the signature book of the 1950s Beat Generation, and its frenetic search for sensation. — Dennis Farney, Wall Street Journal, 16 Sept. 1992 But 1939 gave new impetus to the Western with the Cecil B. de Mille railway epic Union Pacific, John Ford's skillful and dramatic Stagecoach,  … and George Marshall's classic comic Western, Destry Rides Again. — Ira Konigsberg, The Complete Film Dictionary, 1987 … new techniques of navigation and shipbuilding enlarged trade and the geographical horizon; newly centralized power absorbed from the declining medieval communes was at the disposal of the monarchies and the growing nationalism of the past century gave it impetus — Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, 1984 His discoveries have given impetus to further research. the reward money should be sufficient impetus for someone to come forward with information about the robbery
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Recent Examples on the Web Though the impetus for Florida’s goaltending success — Chris Driedger — has since moved on to Seattle, up-and-coming netminder Spencer Knight finally has a chance to shine. Mary Clarke, USA TODAY, 12 Oct. 2021 The devastating global economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic was an impetus to get a deal done now, Mr. Le Maire said. New York Times, 8 Oct. 2021 This was the impetus behind my Q&A series Lieutenants: Lessons, Learning and Leadership. Chris Barbin, Forbes, 6 Oct. 2021 There’s less impetus to be actively anti-racist or use one’s energy to fight systemic injustices when one faces so few meaningful injustices oneself. Sara Petersen, Harper's BAZAAR, 26 Aug. 2021 Realizing that there are often equally true but opposed sides to a story was one impetus for sitting down all these years later and writing a memoir of my time working for Hoover. Paul Letersky, Time, 22 July 2021 Deakins said the 2020 presidential election was one impetus for his introducing the resolution. Tom Sissom, Arkansas Online, 6 July 2021 There also was an economic impetus for slavery, which the Mexican government had outlawed, to support a cotton industry that was booming in the South, said Gilberto Hinojosa, history professor emeritus at the University of the Incarnate Word. Scott Huddleston, San Antonio Express-News, 5 July 2021 George Floyd’s death on a Minneapolis street corner in the summer of 2020 was the impetus for thousands of businesses around the country to take a deep dive into their diversity policies. Brenda Cain, cleveland, 27 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impetus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of impetus

1641, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for impetus

Latin, assault, impetus, from impetere to attack, from in- + petere to go to, seek — more at feather

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Time Traveler for impetus

Time Traveler

The first known use of impetus was in 1641

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Dictionary Entries Near impetus



impeyan pheasant

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Impetus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for impetus



English Language Learners Definition of impetus

: a force that causes something (such as a process or activity) to be done or to become more active
: a force that causes an object to begin moving or to continue to move

More from Merriam-Webster on impetus

Nglish: Translation of impetus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of impetus for Arabic Speakers


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